SCOTUS Hears Trump’s Presidential Immunity Appeal

Today, the Supreme Court will listen to arguments about former President Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from criminal prosecution for actions taken during his presidency.

Besides altering longstanding precedent, the decision could bear and delay the criminal prosecutions President Trump is facing before the election.

A Washington appeals court dismissed his attempt for immunity in the Justice Department’s prosecution of his actions on January 6th and in response to the 2020 presidential election. Now, the Supreme Court is poised to review that ruling, possibly setting a wider scope for presidential immunity.

Amid the options available to the justices are redefining the scope of immunity while sending the case back to the district court for reconsideration. It could also outright reject either President Trump’s claims to immunity or Special Counsel Jack Smith’s argument that he doesn’t enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution.

Nixon v. Fitzgerald, a Supreme Court case from 1973, established that presidents enjoy absolute immunity from civil liability for actions that fell within the “outer perimeter” of their official duties. Experts speculated that the justices could extend that same framework to criminal liability.

This is the second major oral argument the justices are hearing about attempts to punish President Trump for his conduct following the 2020 presidential election. They heard oral argument in February over Colorado’s attempt to disqualify him from the state’s ballot and issued a unanimous judgment in opposition.

A week before President Trump’s appeal reached the Supreme Court, the justices also heard oral argument over how the DOJ applied a financial reform law to Jan. 6 defendants. That same law forms part of DOJ’s indictment against President Trump.

Separation of Powers is a major issue that will likely loom large in both the oral argument and eventual opinion.

President Trump has argued that judicial review of his official acts would be inappropriate, while Special Counsel Jack Smith said granting criminal immunity would upset the balance of power and allow presidents to get away with egregious wrongdoing.

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By Hunter Fielding
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